Value investing isn't easy. You spend many a night poring over tomes of forgotten financial lore. You often have to wait years to see the market come around to your point of view. Oh, and those growth bullies laugh at your glasses and get all the girls. Then again, when the really nasty market corrections come, guess who still has a job and assets left to invest?

Motley Fool Inside Value pick First Data (NYSE:FDC) is one of those stocks that separate the true value investors from the wannabes. Growth hasn't exactly been torrid lately, and the stock has spent the better part of three years going nowhere fast. Yet I imagine that many true value mavens would still buy these shares today.

For the third quarter, the company reported total revenue growth of about 6%. Growth was fueled by payment services (up 15%) and merchant services (up 9%) but dragged down by the card-issuing business (down 12%). Unfortunately, better revenue didn't trickle down to the income statement; operating profits were down 4%, and net income was down 8%. That said, operating cash flow did manage to grow about 6% from the year-ago quarter.

The card-issuing business is First Data's true problem. Both the payment service and the merchant service businesses produced operating profit growth this quarter (up 8% and 7%, respectively), but the card-issuing business fell off by 25%. In other words, two solid plow horses are being dragged down by an asthmatic donkey.

I don't think the card-issuing business will turn around quickly, but I doubt it's doomed to be a financial deadweight forever. If it were, I think the company would sell it or spin it off. More positively, payment services are still growing well overseas, and investments in the merchant business should start to pay off (including a recently expanded deal with Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) for check-collection services).

One of the toughest things to do in investing is stick with a good company when the road gets bumpy. I don't own First Data shares, and there other stocks higher up on my wish list. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the company and its potential. This stock will likely continue to demand patience, but it should reward that patience over time.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).